Many buyers tend to focus on the final pre-shipment inspection only. However, there are many other inspection touch points along the production cycle, and even after shipping.
I've listed the 5 most common types of QC inspections that can or should be conducted in this post. If you aren't running these, perhaps you can consider it...
1. Incoming materials/components inspection (at the factory)
The sub-supplier delivers the fabric, or the steel rods, or the PCBA, or another type of component that is key to making a good product. Do you let the assembly factory cut it, weld it, or otherwise embed it into the final product?
A common issue in China is the lack of incoming quality control. Most factories take what their suppliers send to them, just because ‘in any case, we have no time to resend the materials to them’. The problem is, the severity of any quality issue goes up exponentially after it concerns the whole product, rather than just a component.
Ensuring suppliers do a proper job of checking their incoming components is extremely important if you identify this type of risk for your products.
2. In-line / in-process inspections (at the factory)
Another inspection that might catch serious issues before it is too late is the in-process inspection (often called “in-line inspection” in apparel, where it is extremely common).
A lot of things might go wrong when manufacturing has started, and factories don’t always communicate about it. Here again, the “we need to ship soon and they will certainly notice a delay, while they might not notice a few quality issues” logic might have disastrous consequences.
Similarly, they might not fully understand the buyer’s quality standards, and it is an excellent time to catch & fix this misunderstanding in expectations. An early feedback/warning system is perfect!
3. Final random inspection (at the factory)
This is the most common type of QC inspection. It is the last time issues can get caught and fixed by the manufacturer – after that, many excuses might pop up (“it probably appeared while the goods were in the container”) and responsibility gets diluted.
Everything will be checked: The quantity, the average product quality, the conformity of the packing, packaging, and labelling elements, etc.
Following a proper sampling & picking procedure is extremely important, and many shortcuts are taken at this stage. This is when most of the “behaviour issues” on the inspector’s side take place.
4. Post-delivery inspection (in the buyer’s warehouse)
Many companies do a ‘quick check’ once they get the goods, with a particular focus on the items and suppliers that have a history of low reliability. There are several reasons for this:
Some issues might appear after the last inspection at the factory, be it because the manufacturer ‘salted’ bad pieces among the good pieces, or because of changes in the product (e.g. mould that grows, a glue that stops working, etc.) during transportation.
It is also a way of double-checking on the work on pre-shipment inspections – were some widespread and severe issues not noticed, and why?
5. The value of using the same standard and collecting data the same way all along
Let’s say your company does more than one of the five inspections I listed above. Isn’t there a serious opportunity for comparing data, in case you use a quality inspection software tool?
Let’s look at an example.
In factory ABC, PO 123 was inspected three times:
- In-line: scratches on 9% of samples; wrong colour on 5% of samples
- Just before shipment: scratches on 3% of samples; no wrong colour
- After delivery: scratches on 4% of samples; wrong colour on 5% of samples
What could be concluded here?
- The factory did fix most of the scratch issues during production. The in-line inspection, as well as the fear of rejection in the final inspection, were useful.
- The factory might have played a game about the wrong colour (they might have been hidden before shipment and later placed back into the batch).
This is where having all the data collected the same way and saved in the same database helps a lot; and that is very time-consuming to achieve, without dedicated quality inspection software.
Have your say...
Are you currently performing these QC inspections? Are they working out well, or do you have certain issues? What questions or concerns about quality inspections do you have that we can help with? Leave a comment below and we'll be on hand to answer it ASAP!